Is that a DQ?⏱
In partnership with On
Lap 115: In Partnership With On
What happens when you mix the world's fastest athletes and a festival atmosphere? On Track Nights. Loud, rowdy, and full of energy, these are track meets for the entire running community. With everything from world-class athletes and musical entertainment to fireworks and food trucks, these are not your standard running events. Launching in 2023, there will be On Track Nights events happening throughout May and June in Paris, Vienna and London. Don't miss out. Learn more at www.ontracknights.com
Good athletes, better fans 🇰🇪
I like to think of myself as the Phil Collins of track & field media personalities, because I’m always banging on drums about ways to make the sport more popular.
But if there’s one drum I’ve been banging the loudest and most repeatedly this season, it’s that professional track and field should start showcasing itself outside of Europe and Eugene. First demonstrated in Botswana and now confirmed in Nairobi at the Kip Keino Classic, it feels like more and more top athletes are willing to travel to Africa to compete. But the reason I’m hammering out that drum fill from “In the Air Tonight” is the enthusiasm displayed by the avid fan bases at these meets. It’s a great example of what meet environments should look like – where standing on your feet and blowing a whistle for three hours is not looked down on, but celebrated.
Kenya also thinks it deserves to be upgraded to Diamond League status and isn’t shy in letting that be known. There’s a reason Sha’Carri Richardson was moved to the 200m: having more races with fast winning times makes the event seem more competitive as a whole. Ultimately, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce did not run due to injury. No matter. Richardson dominated the curve and despite celebrating the last 25 meters still won handily in 22.07 (+1.7).
With over three weeks between Doha and Rabat, Kip Keino does fit nicely into the calendar and geographically it makes sense. That is partially why the meet organizers once again did away with the gate fee of 200 shillings ($1.47 USD) because a packed stadium is an investment in the future of the event. It’s sort of like how Formula 1 initially gave ESPN broadcasting rights for free but now has an annual deal worth $90M. (Everyone wants to replicate Drive To Survive, but not all the other strategic decisions that enabled F1 to capitalize on the growing curiosity around it. That’s another drum I’ll likely bang on later.)
The home crowd had every reason to expect some big victories from their middle distance stars. Mary Moraa, the World Championship bronze medalist, is back in top form after a relatively average indoor season, as evinced by her 1:58.83 win in the 800m. And Emmanuel Wanyonyi, last year’s fourth place finisher at Worlds, took down two big names – Wyclife Kinyamal and Timothy Cheruiyot – en route to a new world lead of 1:43.32.
Last year there was a ton of hype around Abel Kipsang running 3:31.01 at this meet and… wait how did I make it to the fourth paragraph before mentioning the altitude? Anyway, that performance was followed up with 1500 wins in Doha and Birmingham. But by the end of the year, Kipsang was a bit tired and finished 7th at Worlds. Learning from past mistakes, this was only Kipsang’s second race of the season and resulted in a second place finish in 3:32.7. Hopefully that’s indicative of a more measured build up and fresher legs in August.
For middle distance fans, Reynold Cheruiyot was the breakout star of the meet. The 18 year old was last year’s U20 champion, and finished second at the World Cross Country Championships junior race. The Kenyan knocked a second off his personal best in his opener, and just took another one off here, winning in a world lead 3:32.01. Like most 1500s have a tendency to do, the event has been slow to get going in 2023.
And though the bulk of my readership and I like to pretend the 1500 is the premier event in track and field, let’s stop kidding ourselves. Even Kenyan fans seem more excited by the 100m these days. Like Julius Yego in the javelin before him, Ferdinand Omanyala has broken down invisible barriers to run a world leading 9.84 (-0.5). In the process, Omanyala adds Marvin Bracy to the list of studs he has beaten, which already included Fred Kerley and Marcell Jacobs. But they have something he doesn’t. Omanyala has proven he can run fast, but he still needs to do it with medals on the line. What’s the visa situation like for Hungary?
Just some food for thought…
8️⃣ biggest performances of conference weekend
Photo: Arkansas Track
For athletes with World Championship aspirations in 2023, a conference champion meet might seem like small potatoes in comparison of what is to come. But if one of these Worlds-ready college kids makes it to Budapest and walks away medal-less, that’s okay. A global championship is the one meet where even an NCAA champion is allowed to be happy “just to be there.”
But for that same theoretical stud, that grace doesn’t apply to their college conference meet. At conference, it’s not just about points and team scores. It’s about not embarrassing yourself! The expectation is to win and anything less than that could be seen as a failure. Despite balancing finals and resisting the urge to take part in the end of year rituals and parties that the civilians are enjoying, there were some big performances this past weekend. Here are the eight that are worth telling your friends about:
We care about the triple jump! – Who has the world record? You signed up for a track and field newsletter. You must know who holds the world record in the triple jump, right? Hint: I know you want to say Willie Banks, but it’s actually a Brit: Jonathan Edwards. Well, it has been 28 years since Edwards leaped 18.29m and I am calling my shot now: one day – maybe even one day soon – the answer to that question will be Jaydon Hibbert. The 18 year old Razorback from Jamaica set the U20 and NCAA records, launching 17.87m. When he went 17.54m indoors, some dismissed it with “yea, at altitude!” but now… even with a short approach! This kid is the future.
The queen of the SEC 👑– The first time the majority of track fans really took notice of Britton Wilson was during her incredible triple at last year’s SEC meet. One year later, it turns out she was only scratching the surface. The Arkansas junior ran 49.40 during the 400m prelims to set a new NCAA record, and before the graphic could dry it was outdated. Wilson went on to go 49.13 in the finals. She of course then returned to win the 400mH in 53.28. Which is her better event? Well, she has the number one time in the world for both.
One more WOO BIG SOOIE – Did you know that Arkansas is good at track and field? Without a doubt, the SEC meet was the meet of the weekend as some of the country’s top teams scrambled to get every point that they could. Enter Ayden Owens-Delerme… you know, the decathlete? I think we found his 11th event. In only his second meet ever running the 400m hurdles, Ayden ran a remarkable 48.26 seconds to win the conference title. Do you remember in 2014 when Ashton Eaton started toying around with the event? The two-time Olympic champion – who has faster personal bests in the 100mH and 400m – ran the event eight times that season. And he only got down to 48.69. Hopefully that puts this in perspective!
Photo: UW Track
Taking down the Ducks – The Oregon Men have won every Pac-12 title since 2007. That means they’d won every single outdoor Pac-12 title, since it was the Pac-10 through 2010. Calling it a dynasty would be an understatement. And this isn’t the Mid-State Mountain Valley East conference either. Andy Powell was at the helm of all of those teams through 2018, before moving north and taking over at the University of Washington. This was the first-ever conference win for the Huskies, and they did it by winning every single distance event. Utilizing their full bench of sub-four minute milers, they pulled off a feat that had only been done once before on the men’s side by Stanford in 2003. A friend (who has never been coached by him) asked me if Powell is underrated. After watching Nathan Green run 51-seconds for his final 400m I said, “not by anyone who actually knows anything about distance running.”
STIICCKKKK – Do you know what the key to a good 4 × 100m relay is? Teamwork! The LSU men broke the four year old NCAA record running 37.90. The team’s personal bests added up made for a 2.48 differential. For comparison the world record differential between Jamaica’s personal bests and 36.84 is 2.09 seconds. And the differential for Team USA’s record is 2.11 seconds. The Texas women also know the value of practicing handoffs – they broke their own collegiate record set earlier this season, going 41.89.
The Gators keep chomping – The Florida Gators have had their fair share of great 400m runners, but it wasn’t until last year that they finally won an NCAA title in the 4 x 400m. With a 2:57.76 at SECs, they retained the collegiate record (Alabama also dipped under the old mark) in large part due to Ryan Willie’s 43.3 split on anchor.
Photo: University of Texas
Somebody’s farther – One week after Tara Davis-Woodhall updated her world lead in the long jump to “Top 2, but not #2”, another Texas Longhorn goes 1cm past the previous mark as Ackelia Smith lands 7.08m out. This continues the trend of Jamaica’s exceptional rise in the field events within the NCAA, but also my growing interest in the jumps. (Not quite ready to declare 2023 the year of the jumps at CITIUS MAG, but it could happen with your help.)
The hurdles have changed – Are the hurdles a different height this year? The depth in the United States in the 100mH has long been incredible, but this season is pushing the upward trajectory to even more ridiculous heights, and it’s only May. Alia Armstrong ran an NCAA all-time best wind-aided 12.31 (+2.2) and followed it up with a 12.40 (+0.4) in finals. Along with Masai Russell and Ackera Nugent, the three best hurdlers in the world so far this year aren’t just in college – they are all in the SEC.
Protect World Athletics Social Media 📲
WORLD LEAD 🔥
🇺🇸's Britton Wilson storms to a new 400m collegiate record of 49.13 at the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Baton Rouge.
Wilson has run sub 50 in her three outdoor races this year and at the age of 22 she is already faster than @allysonfelix👀
— World Athletics (@WorldAthletics)
May 14, 2023
If you’ll grant me a taste of slight hyperbole, the World Athletics social media accounts are my greatest hope for track and field. We all love to complain about everything that is wrong with the bureaucracy, but let’s give credit where it is due – it’s one of the few corners in the sport treating it professionally.
While the few people with the Instagram password likely don’t have the power to rebuild the infrastructure of the sport from the ground up, they do have the power to create storylines and build intrigue. Look no further than the post about how Britton Wilson, the fastest runner 400m and 400m hurdler in the world this year, broke the NCAA record.
An ongoing problem is that it is difficult for up-and-coming athletes to make a name for themselves in track and field outside of the Olympics. Sure, within our bubble it can be done at the World Championships, too. But celebrating a gold medal after it happens does not put asses in seats in that moment, watching it live. And if the next meet that “matters” is four years away, then that’s a long time to maintain a captive audience. And that audience might only care if the exact same athletes remain competitive.
If the goal is to have an educated fan base who will tune into the World Championships – or heaven forbid, fly to Budapest to watch in person – then new superstars need to be made. There is an obsession with putting historical figures on a pedestal that feels somewhat unique to track. It’s a great practice in terms of appreciating the tradition of a sport where the length of the track remains consistent each generation. But Usain Bolt isn’t selling tickets in 2023, so for the health and future of the sport, we might wanna move on.
The reactions to World Athletics leveraging Allyson Felix’s good name to provide helpful perspective to Britton Wilson’s accomplishments is nothing short of soft. This is not disrespectful or messy – it is invoking a muse. A casual fan who maybe isn’t familiar with Britton or the gravity of a 49.13 second 400m should hopefully understand, “Allyson Felix is one of the best runners of all-time and this person that I have not heard of is running even faster.” This does not strip Felix of her 32 global championship medals or her legendary status.
Lebron James has scored more points than Michael Jordan. That’s a fact. And it’s a fact that Britton Wilson ran faster for 400m than Allyson Felix ever has. By calling it out, World Athletics has brought awareness to Wilson’s name and talent. That’s good, because we can still buy tickets to go watch Britton run.
In partnership with Bandit
Bandit is a Brooklyn based running and lifestyle apparel brand founded by members of the NYC running community in 2020. And this weekend is their hometown half – the Brooklyn Half – which happens to be one of the biggest half marathons in the world. To celebrate, Bandit is hosting a shakeout run, cheer section, and post-race celebration, information on all of which can be found here. RSVP, check out their website, and look for their gear on the roads and track all summer.
The “Only” USATF 25K Champs 🇺🇸
Photo: Chris Robotham | @tofer_robo
Is it time to be nervous if you are an American Olympic marathon hopeful not named Betsy Saina? This weekend at the USATF 25K Road Championships – the one you have all been waiting for! – the former three-time NCAA champion at Iowa State reintroduced herself to an American audience. This was the first race that Saina has run on US soil since switching allegiance from her native Kenya, and let’s just say she is undefeated.
Grand Rapids lived up to its name (the weather? Grand. The paces? Rapid.) and spectators were treated to a battle between Saina, who ran 1:24:32, and Keira D’Amato, who finished a few seconds back in 1:24:39. Do with that information what you will. Nothing forces fans to stop worrying about times and start focusing on competition like odd distances. D’Amato has never been shy about lining up often and the strategy of racing herself back into shape this spring is seemingly working.
There was no question that Betsy was back in business following the birth of her son in 2021 when she finished 5th at the Tokyo Marathon in 2:21:40 — the fastest time by an American in 2023. And while none of the ladies who are actually vying to make the team underestimated the threat that a race-sharp Betsy presents, chances are that YOU have.
On the men’s side, stop me if you have heard this one before… Leonard Korir wins the USATF title! Running it back after last year’s victory, Lenny confidently waited until the final moments of the race to make his move, which he deployed expertly to win in 1:14:45, four seconds ahead of Jacob Thomson.
Korir has cemented himself as one of America’s top road dogs for over a decade now. His trajectory from the perspective of the Columbia cross country team 13 years ago has been quite amazing. We kept close tabs on Iona since they were quite clearly way better than us coming off two recent runner-up finishes at the NCAA Championships, and their campus is about 12 miles from ours, as the crow flies. Even though the Lions had never made a national meet and the Gaels were almost winning them, every year we thought that David could take down Goliath.
They had these dope shirts that read, “Assembled in the USA” on the back and it basically meant that no matter how many seniors they’d graduate that they’d reload with some incredible international talent from far away places like Ireland, England, Australia, Sweden, Morocco, and Upstate New York. When Lenny showed up from Kenya there was understandably a lot of hype and fear, but when he ran 4:32 for the mile at the Metropolitan Championships our anxiety disappeared.
One year later Korir won the NCAA Indoor Championship 5000m. And he is still winning.
Care for a Spot of 10ks? 🇬🇧
Photo: Pete Drinkell | Night of the 10,000m PB’s
Over the past few years, the Highgate Harriers’ Night of the 10,000m PBs has been solidly etched into my bucket list of global meets to attend. That’s no small feat, considering it highlights what’s often considered one of the sport’s most… uh, how do I put this?… challenging to appreciate races. The fact that fans turn out in droves to hoot and holler at multiple fields worth of 25-lap warriors is a testament to how cool this whole production is, and it goes to show that there are no boring races, just boring venues!
This year marks the 10th anniversary and there’s plenty of fun elements to rile up the raucous crowds and festival vibes. There will be a beer garden or biergarten. There will be circus performers. There will be a lights show. Most importantly, there will be fast races since it is a World Athletics Silver Event and doubles as the British Athletics 10,000m Championship.
Here’s what we will be watching out for…
1. Paul Chelimo Returns To The 10K – But the odds are not looking good to become the British champion! After earning an Olympic silver medal, an Olympic bronze medal, and a World Championship bronze medal in the 5000m (for America), it looks like Paul Chelimo is preparing to move up in distance. Earlier this year, he signed a contract with Decathlon’s performance shoe brand Kiprun with his sights set on a marathon soon. He debuted in his new kit with a 62:22 at the Berlin Half, and is entered for Saturday night, just the second 10,000m race of his professional career and his first since his 27:43.89 personal best from the 2019 Stockholm Diamond League. All eyes will be on whether Chelimo will go hard or suffer for the rest of his life.
2. Weini Kelati Chases The World Championship Standard – While many people remember the battle between Natosha Rogers and Emily Infeld in the final 100m of last year’s World Championship qualifying race at the Prefontaine Classic, Kelati was in the mix for much of it, before finishing 5th overall – just nine seconds behind Infeld. She also came agonizingly close to making the team in the 5000m with a fourth place finish at USAs. She ultimately got her first chance to represent Team USA at the World Cross Country Championships in March but, c’mon, wouldn’t you also rather make the team on the track? The first step is getting the World Championship qualifying standard of 30:40.00. Her coach, Stephen Haas, told us this will be her only attempt at hitting the standard before shifting the focus to the 5000m and targeting that standard in June. The plan would be to double at the U.S. Championships, if she has both standards.
3. Andrew Butchart Goes For The British Title – Last year was Butchart’s first year as a 10,000m guy after going 27:36.77 at The Ten in California. He went on to finish seventh at the Commonwealth Games. The spot for Worlds is his for the taking, with a few caveats. No British man has the standard so he’ll have to run 27:10.00 (his PR is 27:36.77) or get his world ranking a bit higher. And since no one fully understands that algorithm, let’s just go fast! He’s looking for his first national title since 2019.
4. How Fast Will Jessica Warner-Judd Go? – The only woman in the field with a personal best under 31 minutes, she’s already got her World Championship qualifying mark through her 30:35.93 at the World Championships last summer. She’s only been running the 10,000m for two years and now has a chance to claim her second national title in the event while also defending her title after winning last year’s race in 31:22.24 – just three seconds ahead of former UW Husky standout Amy-Eloise Markovc (LET’S GO PUPS!), who is also back for more laps in (on?) Parliament Hill.
5. Don’t Overlook Hawi Feysa – In the same way that the United States has a surplus of strong women’s 400m hurdlers, Ethiopia’s got more 10,000m aces than it knows what to do with. That logjam is alleviated somewhat by Letesenbet Gidey being assured a spot for Budapest as the defending champion, which means Ethiopia gets to send three other women to Worlds this summer. Shockingly, only three women have the qualifying standard and Hawi Feysa is looking to move up in the pecking order by hitting the standard here. She has a personal best of 31:03.32 from last June but did not get picked for Worlds after finishing 11th in their selection race. She just finished 6th at the World Cross Country Championships so she’ll be up with Warner-Judd in this one.
6. Will anyone grab a beer mid-race? – Smart money’s on no, but hey… as I hope they say in the north of London: “I just mighnt have a pint.” One of the coolest elements to this event is the beer garden tent set up in lane three. We have yet to see someone snag a pint and still get under a World Championship qualifying mark. Would be easier if it was in lane two.
Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥
Track Night NYC is this Friday at Icahn Stadium. The Trials of Miles event will be streamed LIVE and FREE by CITIUS MAG! The seeded sections begin at 7:30pm, and all are loaded with talent, but the premier events will be the 800s, which will each be incentivized with a $8,000 prize for the winner.
The headliners of the USATF LA Grand Prix, Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Athing Mu, have both unfortunately pulled out of the race a week and a half before. No specific reason was given.
Do you know what is worse than running for six hours to only take six seconds off of your 100K world record? Not doing it at all. Fortunately for Lithuania’s Aleksandr Sorokin, 6:05:35 was exactly the improvement he needed to collect any contractual bonuses and notoriety. They’re calling him the Mondo Duplantis of a much more boring event!
The unseasonably warm Copenhagen Marathon was won by Solomon Kirwa (2:09:12) and Roda Jepkorir (2:23:14). American Roberta Groner ran 2:31:37 for sixth place to post her fastest time in four years. And while you should never ask a lady her age, we’ll brag for her – she did that at 45!
Karrie Baloga, the Champs Sports National Cross Country Champion, is from Cornwall, NY – that means she steeples! This weekend at the Loucks Games she set a new high school 2000m steeplechase record of 6:22.34.
Judson Lincoln from VA Tech was disqualified for taunting his competition after winning the ACC 400m. As a result, his team lost the conference championship by 7.5 points to Clemson. While many sports penalize athletes for similar conduct, track and field is the only one willing to erase the entire “game” because of it. What if instead of a DQ there was a penalty? Rather than earning 10 points for the team, it is only worth half. Still would have lost though…
At the Belfast Irish Milers Meet, Louise Shanahan of Ireland narrowly missed her own national record, winning the 800m in 1:59.53. In second was Abigail Ives, who usurped Keely Hodgkinson for the crown of youngest sub two athlete in Great Britain.
Katelyn Tuohy made her debut in the 10,000m, winning the ACC meet in what was pretty clearly a controlled, comfortable effort – she was wearing a watch and flats and still ran 32:56. A little further south, Parker Valby was back in action after a several month hiatus. In her return, she nabbed the SEC 5,000m in 15:25 with an exciting last lap that had all Valby-heads nervous.
Who do you think are the most followed professional track athletes on Instagram? I didn’t know! So I found this graphic informative.
And on another “me” note, I am racing the Brooklyn Half Marathon this weekend. Expect another insufferable blog post about my experience. If you see the Bandi + CITIUS jersey out on the course, please cheer with a reference to this week’s Lap Count.
Thank you so much to On for sponsoring this week’s newsletter. I tried everything in my power to get my own ass to London for the Night of the 10,000m PB’s but could not swing it — don’t worry though, CITIUS MAG will have our European correspondents on hand covering all the action. You’ll walk away from Saturday wondering why the US doesn’t have something similar.